Joe Biden has told business owners struggling to hire staff that they need to pay better wages, as he seemed to concede that the pandemic increase in unemployment benefits was making it harder to find workers.
John Lanni, co-founder of Cincinnati-based Thunderdome Restaurant Group, which has 39 restaurants nationwide, said they were struggling to find workers.
‘I think it really is a matter of people deciding now that they have opportunities to do other things and there’s a shortage of employees; people are looking to make more money and to bargain,’ said Biden.
‘So I think your business and the tourist business is really going to be in a bind for a little while.’
John Lanni, the co-owner of a restaurant group that has 39 venues across the country, on Wednesday night asked Joe Biden what the president could do to try and help him find more staff for his restaurants. Biden replied that wages needed to go up
Biden addressed multiple topics at the Ohio town hall, hosted by CNN anchor Don Lemon
Clever camera angles showed a packed auditorium, but reporters noticed plenty of empty seats. A CNN spokesman said that the crowd was usual for their town halls. It was unclear whether that was because of the pandemic
He added: ‘John, my guess is that people being paid seven, $8 an hour plus tips, that’s – I think, John, you’re going to be finding 15 bucks an hour or more now. But you may pay that already. You may pay that already.’
The president spoke to a surprisingly empty auditorium at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati.
Flattering camera angles hid the small crowd from viewers at home, but reporters traveling with Biden tweeted pictures of the empty seats.
Donald Trump, who held large rallies through much of the pandemic, frequently taunted Biden for small crowds, which Biden on the campaign trail made a deliberate policy to avoid the spread of COVID-19.
It is unclear if the room was half-full due to concerns about the virus or due to a lack of public interest. A White House official referred an inquiry to CNN.
CNN spokeswoman Lauren Pratapas told The New York Post: ‘This was a typical audience size for a CNN town hall.’
She did not elaborate on the reason for the small crowd size.
At the height of the pandemic, Trump approved a bill allowing an $300 weekly supplement to be added to unemployment benefits, and that the federal unemployment programs be expanded to provide benefits to freelancers, the self-employed, independent contractors and certain people affected by the coronavirus and to those who have exhausted their regular state benefits.
U.S. states putting an early end to federal unemployment benefits saw a larger jump in local labor supply in June – above people line up outside a newly reopened career center for in-person appointments in Louisville
The 26 states ending extra unemployment benefits early
More than two dozen states have ended or plan to end the extra $300 in federal unemployment assistance that many Americans received to help them weather the the COVID-19 pandemic.
The funds were renewed in the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, passed in March.
But some states have decided to end the benefits early as some business owners complain they are trying to fill jobs.
Here are the states and the date the benefits will end there:
Alaska June 12
Missouri June 12
Mississippi June 12
Iowa June 12
Alabama June 19
Idaho June 19
*Indiana June 19
Nebraska June 19
New Hampshire June 19
North Dakota June 19
West Virginia June 19
Wyoming June 19
Arkansas June 26
Florida June 26
Georgia June 26
Montana June 26
Ohio June 26
Oklahoma June 26
South Carolina June 26
South Dakota June 26
Texas June 26
Utah June 26
Maryland July 3
Tennessee July 3
Arizona July 10
Louisiana August 3
Citing workforce shortages, 26 states terminated early at least one of the three pandemic unemployment insurance programs Congress enacted in March 2020 and extended twice. The Biden administration has said governors could restart the programs if they chose to.
Biden appeared on Wednesday to accept that the additional unemployment payments may have discouraged people from working.
State-level jobs data released earlier this month show that in the 26 states stopping benefits early an additional 174,000 people joined the labor force in June, by either taking jobs or beginning work searches, compared to 47,000 in the other states.
The numbers are small in a national labor force of 161 million and come with a cautionary note: Job gains in both groups of states were roughly the same.
‘There’s some evidence that maintaining the ability to continue to not have your – have to pay your rent so you don’t get thrown out, and being able to provide for unemployment insurance – has kept people from going back to work,’ said Biden.
A ‘Now Hiring’ sign advertising jobs at a hand car wash is seen along a street in Miami, Florida in 2020
Asked directly by the host, Don Lemon, whether he accepted that the unemployment benefits disincentivized people from finding work, Biden demurred.
‘I don’t think it did much,’ the president said.
‘It’s argued that because the extended unemployment benefits kept people at home.’
Lemon asked: ‘You don’t think it did that?’
Biden replied: ‘I see no evidence it had any serious impact on it.
‘You can argue it.
‘Let’s assume it did. It’s coming to an end. It’s not like we’re in a situation where if that was it and it ends, then John’s going to have no problem.’
Biden returned again to his argument that companies were not paying livable wages, which was the reason they struggled to find staff.
‘One of my programs is make sure that we have four more years of school that’s free, two years for three-year-olds and four-year-olds, because it’s demonstrated that increases significantly success and community college,’ he said.
‘Those folks are not likely to want to go and be waiters. Nothing wrong with being a waiter or waitress, my family’s been involved in that business.
‘If you make less than 15 bucks an hour working 40 hours a week, you’re living below the poverty level. You’re living below the poverty level.’
John Lanni asked Biden how he could improve the situation for business owners struggling to find enough workers
He also told Lanni that he and his fellow restaurant owners should be grateful for the subsidies they received, saying: ‘We kept you open. We spent billions of dollars to make sure restaurants could stay open.’
He said it was and remained ‘the right thing to do’.
Lanni, a registered Republican, told The Cincinnati Enquirer that he was unsatisfied with Biden’s response, and added that the they are paying, with tips, at least $15 in most cases.
‘I was hoping he would recognize it is every industry’s dilemma,’ he said after the event.
‘We are in a labor crisis and we need to find a way to incentivize people to get back to work. I just heard restaurants are going to have a hard road going forward and that we need to pay our workers more.
‘That’s happening and it’s still not enough.’
Lanni said 80 to 90 per cent of his company’s workers make more than livable wage, if it’s considered $15 an hour.
‘I feel like he didn’t really answer the question,’ Lanni said.
Source: Daily Mail